When the UC Regents told students in November that they’d have to pay higher fees come spring, many were angered at the abrupt change.
A bill making its way through the state legislature aims to prevent situations like that in the future.
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Merced) introduced the Student Protection Act on Friday, which would require the UC and CSU systems to provide a waiting period prior to implementing fee increases and cap the amount of fee hikes.
The act would require the UC and CSU systems to provide a 180-day waiting period between when a governing board approves a fee increase and when students must pay higher fees. It would also limit fee increases to a maximum of 10 percent per year. Several Democrats co-sponsored the bill.
Raising tuition and fees mid-term is unfair because students and parents have no time to plan, said Jann Taber, Denham’s press secretary.
“Students need to be protected from sudden, unexpected and excessive fees and tuition increases,” Denham said in a press release.
Higher education, especially now, is more difficult to achieve because of the financial burden and a lack of university planning. Students are facing a double-edged sword – fee increases and cuts to classes – causing students to take five to six years to graduate, Denham said in an e-mail interview.
The UC system should focus on eliminating waste by reducing administrative salaries, benefits and severance packages, he said.
“The UCs and CSUs need to do a better job of managing their dollars,” Denham said.
A committee will discuss The Student Protection Act in a February hearing.
Some question the act’s ability to “protect” students.
Jeffrey Bergamini, a UC Davis interdisciplinary studies programmer, said the act will not solve the university’s actual long-term problems.
“It is admirable that the legislature is looking at how to address the student fee problem,” Bergamini said. “However, in the larger picture, they miss the fact that tuition increases aren’t that necessary at this point. They should explore other avenues, such as restructuring and reorganizing where money goes in the university.”
Bergamini predicts the UC administration will use the restriction of fee increases as an excuse to continue to treat workers badly. He said he would be surprised if the UC used it as an opportunity to decrease the size of its administration.
“Although the Student Protection Act has some valid points, it is hard to argue that it is in the interest of undergraduate students,” Beragmini said.
Joshua Clover, UC Davis associate professor of English, said more time to prepare for fee increases is irrelevant to the real erosion of affordable education and insulting to families who cannot afford such fees in the first place.
“Denham and his proposal are scandalously indifferent to actually funding public education, which is the only way the legislature could ‘protect’ student needs,” Clover said in an e-mail interview.
The Student Protection Act comes just after the Senate approved two bills by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in the UC.
SB 330 updates the California Public Records Act to include records of additional organizations that perform government functions at UCs and CSUs. Donors can choose to remain anonymous provided they do not receive something of value greater than $500 in return for their donation or service.
SB 650 allows UC and CSU employees who report waste, fraud and abuse equal legal protections as other state employees.
THERESA MONGELLUZZO can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.